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Aiding Students, Buying Students

Financial Aid in America

Rupert Wilkinson

Publication Year: 2005

From the first scholarship donated to Harvard in 1643 to today’s world of “enrollment management” and federal grants and loans, the author gives a lively social and economic history of the conflicting purposes of student aid and makes proposals for the future. His research for this book is based on archives and interviews at 131 public and private institutions across the United States. In the words of Joe Paul Case, Dean and Director of Financial Aid, Amherst College, “Wilkinson has mined the archives of dozens of institutions to create a mosaic that details the progress of student assistance from the 17th century to the present. He gives particular attention to the origins of need-based assistance, from the charitable benevolence of early colleges to the regulation-laden policies of the federal government. He gives due consideration to institutional motive—he challenges the egalitarian platitudes of affluent colleges and questions the countervailing market and economic forces that may imperil need-based aid at less competitive institutions. By drawing on scores of personal interviews and exchanges of correspondence with aid practitioners, Wilkinson fleshes out recent decades, helping the reader to understand new trends in the provision of aid.”

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

A fourteen-year project can rack up a lot of debts. At the very start, two authorities on financial aid—Larry Gladieux and Bruce Johnstone—welcomed me into the field and sent me some key writing. Much later, Larry gave informed encouragement when it was much needed....

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pp. 1-5

Ann Radcliffe of London, the widowed Lady Mowlson, was not a likely candidate for fleecing. A devout Christian and active philanthropist, she was also a tough-minded investor who ran her large fortune with acumen and attention to detail...

Part I. The American Way of Student Aid

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pp. 7

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1. Setting the Record Straight

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pp. 9-27

This book tells the story of student aid in America. It explores the many reasons aid providers have had for assisting students. In doing this, it illuminates current problems and policies. The book focuses in particular on what is now a rich set of highly selective private colleges, but it connects their history..

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2. Aid in History: Who Got It, What Shaped It

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pp. 28-45

The history of the reach of student aid involves two sets of questions. First, how big was grant aid in different periods, compared with student expenses and college budgets (most aid before the 1940s was college aid), and what proportions of students got it?...

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3. Enter Uncle Sam

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pp. 46-62

Unlike the states, the federal government has supported higher education via student aid more than by direct subsidies to colleges. From time to time, colleges have pressed the federal government for general grants to institutions, but their success has been mainly limited to aid...

Part II. The Way of Elite Colleges

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pp. 63

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4. The Roots of Student Aid

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pp. 65-96

In England and elsewhere in Europe, the idea of aiding poor students—especially “clerks” or church students—was well established by the thirteenth century. When the city fathers of Oxford lynched some clerks in an ugly town-gown...

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5. Merit and "Self-Help"

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pp. 97-110

From the late nineteenth century, scholarships based on academic performance and not on financial need—what today we call “merit scholarships” or “merits”—became more common, more publicized, and more argued about....

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6. Seeking Equity and Order

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pp. 111-128

The 1930s Depression gave colleges good cause to worry about getting enough students. It also produced sharp disagreements about financial aid policy and the role of the federal government....

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7. Choosing the Best

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pp. 129-141

The most important three periods in American higher-education history were, arguably, the early nineteenth century (the break-out period of college expansion), the 1860s (birth of the state land-grant college system), and the mid-1950s to mid-1970s...

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8. New Strategies

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pp. 142-163

In late 1993, Oberlin College, Ohio, bit the bullet, or abandoned its principles, according to one’s point of view. It decided to limit its intake of needy students by instituting “need-aware” admissions. It also established a major new program of merit scholarships not requiring need...

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9. Containing the Market

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pp. 164-174

The departures from need-based aid met in the last chapter have been uncomfortable for financial aid officers and other college administrators. My interviews with them in the 1990s produced remarks about “unease” and “soul-searching,” being “torn” by new policies, and wondering if “I am...

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Part III. Reforming the System

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pp. 175-194

In looking at the history of student aid, what lessons can we learn for the future? Let’s start with the three main strands in the history: diversity of motives, the conflict between aiding needy students and other educational spending, and the interplay between mission and market....

Appendix 1

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pp. 195-201

Appendix 2

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pp. 202-206

Appendix 3

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pp. 207-218

Appendix 4

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pp. 219-226


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pp. 227-294


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pp. 295-329


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pp. 331-346

E-ISBN-13: 9780826592026
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826515025
Print-ISBN-10: 0826515029

Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2005